Five major types of novel work: Scene sketching, Scene writing, Research(collecting), Management, and Digging.

To dig means to find story significant information that builds upon a scene and a story. It’s the information that builds and thickens scene sketches. Often this contains many scene sketches each in a cause/effect ripple.

Sometimes the goal is to fill in backstory information about a character. For example, my scene in progress is about a character, Josh, learning that his girlfriend hates when he interrupts emotional moments. What happens: Josh and Em pick up a package sent that was sent to Em, from her family who she hasn’t seen in over a year. While driving, he’s surprised to see how deeply she’s soaking in the pictures and the trinkets that her family sent her, pictures from a different time, a time without Josh. This causes Josh to speak up, to ask her something mundane like a billboard he just saw.

Before I can write this scene, I must know what was this past of Em’s? How was it different than her reality with Josh? Why can’t he give her that? What in Josh’s past made him fear this? What is the status of their relationship? Why is Josh afraid that she’s reliving a time without him? And on and on. All of this information thickens the scene, even though most of it won’t be on the page. When you know all this backstory, the scene writes itself.

But this stage is so difficult because it’s where so many decisions are made. With each question, there are countless directions. And each of them matters. Maybe Em grew up in Black America and in a completely different world than Josh. Maybe she has an old boyfriend in the pictures who still lives near them. Maybe she’s European and misses home. The implications for the decision are huge.

This becomes even harder when you’re building from nothing, such as early on in a story, or when you’re trying to establish basic world-building details, like okay, we’re going into the jungle, living with this tribe. What kind of sleeping situation will my character experience? Living is thatch huts? What types of food? And so on. So, how to make this easier? The right tools to dig.